George Costanza Seinfeld Hulton Archive/Getty Images
By Virge Randall

People don’t move to New York City for its weather, but for its stories. Most of the ones filmed here are either romantic comedies, situation comedies, or police procedurals. Some New Yorkers experience these in real life and become headlines, but few experience all three… sequentially…in the same evening.

Like when I tried online dating.

My widowhood, after many years of marriage, makes dating problematic. I had already scared off all the men I knew by bursting into tears and crying, “I’m not ready” at the first sign of their interest. I thought online dating would be easier on everybody; I could embarrass myself with strangers instead of emotionally scarring men I knew socially.

I declined to consider men who mentioned “soul mate” or “ideal woman,” or who listed so many specifications it looked like an RFP to build a woman from scratch. (The process really needs a box for visitors to check upon registration to start the paperwork for an order of protection, or a listing in the sex offender registry. We’re all busy people.)

“The Comeback Kid” struck the right balance. His ad was intelligent and witty. His photo seemed recent. He wasn’t on Facebook or LinkedIn, but he sounded legit on the phone. He liked my sense of humor and asked a lot of questions. More important, he asked follow up questions. That meant he was paying attention and not using some “Checklist for Human Interaction,” cribbed from Random Psycho Weekly.

We met at a museum. He was shorter than he claimed, but looked like his picture (some guys don’t even remove the page number from the magazine photo they steal for their profiles). He liked a lot of what I liked. He was knowledgeable about things that interested me. He complimented me and laughed and said, “You are so blushing right now.” And yes, at that point there was an actual violin playing.

Then he asked if I owned or rented my apartment — odd for a first date, but in New York every conversation inevitably turns to real estate. He walked me home. We passed the luxury high-rise on my corner and headed toward the tenement end of the block where I lived.

And that was when he volunteered that he would be away on business…on Valentine’s Day. (Hmmm.) I asked him what business he was in and he said, “I’m an importer-exporter.”

Life has few absolutes, but the one right after the Law of Gravity is “Avoid anyone who sounds like George Costanza.” I asked if he worked for VanDelay Industries, and he laughed and said he was self-employed. I asked for a business card; he said he was waiting for his new ones. Um, yeah, right.

We got to my building and he said he’d contact me when he returned from his trip. I said goodnight and I left him downstairs…so he could wait for “Jerry” to show up with a marble rye.

I took the steps two at a time, and when I got upstairs I Googled his full name.


I Googled his phone number.


I tried an online phone search service.


After several tries, including calling him to say thanks (and check his number), I did a more intensive search specifically for cellphone numbers.


He had a disposable phone.

I was a UPI reporter; I smelled a story. Well, I smelled something. Either he was married, on the lam, or a freelance organ donor supplier scouting for new inventory.

I found my inner Penelope Garcia and pieced together everything I knew about him (which was actually pretty slight). Eventually I learned the truth behind his low profile, and then some. His ex-wife had sued him twice for nonpayment…and so did delis, credit card companies, utilities, landlords, and businesses throughout the city — 63 lawsuits in all, including one by the old age facility housing his mother. He had elevated being a deadbeat to the level of performance art.

I produce enough drama without importing more, especially from someone on the cusp of turning pro by knocking off a bodega. I sent him a brief, polite note that we weren’t a match. Out of curiosity, though, I went to his profile for a reality check.

It was gone. He had ghosted.

Or so he thought. Through some quirk of software, I learned he had changed his handle from “Comeback Kid” to ‘Etch a SketchÒ” (the toy that lets you write whatever you want, shake it up….and disappear). I sent him a follow-up note just to let him know he wasn’t playing with an amateur. He’s probably still out there, looking for the right amount.

Personally, if I had to name myself after a toy or game, I’d choose “SlinkyÒ.” Some folks qualify for “Yo-Yo” who have never touched a cello. And, of course, there are those who earn the name “Risk.”

But don’t get me started about that.

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